Q: “My 15 year old daughter who has ADHD told me the other day that she no longer wanted to live as a girl. She wants to explore life as a boy. She’s been having problems at school lately and attributes this to her identity issues. How can I help her find this out? “
When a child or teenager reveals that they are questioning their gender identity, it’s a big deal for both of you. This should not be taken lightly. It took your daughter courage to share this with you, and if she’s like other kids who I know are questioning their gender, it’s something she’s been thinking about for a while. (I’ve been using “she / she” since you did too. If your teen asks you to switch to masculine pronouns, I encourage you to.)
When you meet her where she is, keep lines of communication open, and give her wide scope to explore gender with no expectations of permanence, she will look back and realize how happy she is to feel the love you are for They have.
How to support a teen who is questioning gender
1. Consider your answer carefully
The first task is to think deeply about your answer as this will set the tone for your entire family’s answer. Once parents find out that they are expecting something, they wonder whether their child will be a girl or a boy, what they will look like and how they will act. These early fantasies form what are known as “gender-normative expectations,” and these are both conscious and unconscious.
Often times, when a child questions their gender identity, their parents’ empathy changes significantly based on how upset those gender ideas are now. It is important that you investigate your feelings about this major change other than her, preferably with an experienced therapist. Adolescents with ADHD absorb everything that indicates rejection in words, facial expressions and body language.
[Read: How to Build Self Confidence in Teens with ADHD]
2. Know that changes take time
Changing sex takes time, and it is especially frustrating for children struggling with impulse control. Taylor, a 19 year old transgender customer of mine, recently said to me, “It’s frustrating because I’m impatient. I want to change everything about myself to be feminine and know how to live like that, and I can’t yet. “
In order to receive adequate medical treatment, medical providers often require that a transition person has been in therapy with a gender specialist for a year and has a letter of support about further hormone development and / or surgery. There are many problems to be solved: legalizing a new name, exploring dress and appearance options, finding therapy and support groups, and considering medical treatment. Figuring out and implementing all of these steps seems impossible for the now / not-now brains of people with ADHD. You and your child need to work together to create a realistic timeline.
Familiarizing yourself with the pace of change serves all family members, especially your teen. Your tendency will be to move as quickly as possible, but this does not give her or you enough room to adjust and adjust. Children with ADHD often have problems with emotional regulation, organization, planning, prioritization, time management, and focus. These challenges in how leaders work are exacerbated when a teen questions their gender identity. Emotions can overwhelm coping skills, so your daughter is likely to be more reactive or emotional when trying to understand what is going on. Look out for isolation, self-harming behavior, and low self-esteem, and make sure she has a therapist or at least a support group to help her explore her feelings.
3. Hear your child
What your daughter needs from you most is compassion, appreciation, and entertainment. Helping her on this journey gives her the security she needs for self-acceptance. Here are steps to assist them on this journey:
[Read: How to Heal a Strained Parent-Teenager Relationship]
- Keep an eye on things. You need to set limits on when and where you can talk about gender switching and everything that goes with it. While gender issues are important, they are not the only aspect of your child’s life. It’s important to stick to daily routines to reduce stress and benefit other aspects of your life.
- Discuss the language. Words are important. Ask about your teen’s chosen name and pronoun. You will stumble with it. Discuss how you can make changes without feeling like walking on eggshells. Ask her to give you a chance to correct yourself before she steps in.
- Set the tone for siblings. The way you interact with your teen affects the way their siblings do. Your other children can help you adapt to the gender survey process. Generation Z children accept gender fluidity more than adults.
- Get the support everyone needs. This is no time for a do-it-yourself parent. If you are unsure of what to do or say, keep in mind that many other families have gone through this. Find online resources, parenting groups, and / or experienced therapists to help you, your teen, and your family make this transition.
Gender Questioning and Transitioning: More Resources
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Updated May 12, 2021
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